Noisey Vs. MetalSucks: Why it Ultimately Doesn’t Matter that Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail to the King Isn’t Original
Welcome to Noisey Vs. MetalSucks, a bi-weekly column in which the staff of Noisey and the staff of MetalSucks will engage in vigorous academic debate concerning some of extreme music’s most relevant topics of the day. For this week’s edition, MetalSucks’ own Axl Rosenberg does battle with Noisey’s Jon Wiederhorn on Avenged Sevenfold’s new album, Hail to the King: how much does it matter — if at all — that the album lacks originality? Read Axl’s position below, then head over to Noisey to check out Jon’s counter-argument. Enjoy!
“Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.”
-Very Old Cliché
At some point during the early-90s punk revival (more like a “punk” revival… but I digress), I was discussing some new album with our friend Bruce, when I commented that I was into the record.
“Why not?” Bruce asked me.
“Well,” I said, “it sounds exactly like The Ramones.”
“But you love The Ramones!” Bruce protested (he had gotten me into The Ramones in the first place).
“Yeah, but it sounds just like The Ramones,” was my retort. “The singer even sounds like Joey!”
Bruce shrugged: “I love The Ramones. I can’t dislike something that sounds like a band I love, even if it’s totally unoriginal.”
Bruce’s logic was, and is, sound. Yes, Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail to the King borrows heavily from Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Megadeth, and other staples of late 80s/early 90s mainstream metal. But if you dig The Black Album and Use Your Illusion and Countdown to Extinction and say you “don’t like” the music on Hail to the King, well… sorry to be an accusative jerk, but you’re probably being disingenuous. It is entirely possible not to respect the album for its lack of originality, but how can you not like it? How can you enjoy “Sad But True” and NOT enjoy a song that sounds EXACTLY like “Sad But True”?
But the brutal truth is, lack of originality isn’t even really valid grounds for disrespecting Hail.
For one thing, other artistic mediums besides music “recycle” all the time. It’s the whole reason that that cliché up there is a cliché in the first place. For evidence, look no further than your local multiplex. Todd Haynes’ ode to Douglas Sirk movies, Far from Heaven, got four Oscar nominations. The Artist, a faux-silent film, WON five Oscars. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s entire careers are based around openly stealing from films they love. It’s gotten to the point where Quentin Tarantino is even using variations of the titles of the movies to which he is “paying homage.”
For another thing, Avenged Sevenfold have been aping these bands (and others) since at least City of Evil, if not longer. Hell, M. Shadows has admitted as much.
Also, consider this: the sheer number of metal bands in the world who are unoriginal outweigh the number of metal bands in the world who are original but a margin of roughly 5,000,000,000,000 to 1. And I’m not even talking about bands like Slayer and AC/DC, who haven’t really written new albums since Reign in Blood and Back in Black, respectively. I’m talking about pretty much every single goddamn band in metal. The Sword are now better at being Black Sabbath than Black Sabbath are. Lamb of God’s “Laid to Rest” is pretty much the same riff as the one in Testament’s “Into the Pit.” Pantera stole from Exhorder, and then everyone stole from Pantera (and to hear the bands tell it, Dime didn’t mind one iota).
That’s the whole reason we value originality so highly — because it’s incredibly rare. And if you wanna be the purest of the purists, if you wanna say “I’m not listening to anything that isn’t original,” that’s obviously your choice. But the number of albums in any genre of music to which you will still be able to listen is gonna shrink by about 99.5%.
So, yeah. Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail to the King is guilty of wearing its influences on its sleeve. Y’know what else it’s guilty of? Rocking your damn face off. And, hey, if it gets a slew of fifteen-year-olds to back and check out old Megadeth and GN’R… that can only be a good thing, right?